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Pacific War vets return to pay their respects

Pacific War vets return to pay their respects

The Veterans' Affairs Minister leads a delegation to honour Pacific War dead.

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Sixty years after the end of the War in the Pacific, Veterans' Affairs Minister George Hawkins will lead 80 New Zealand veterans and Defence Force personnel back to the scene of some of the War's fiercest fighting in order to honour their fallen comrades.

Mr Hawkins and Air Vice Marshal John Hamilton will lead the official delegation to Noumea and the Solomons tomorrow to attend commemorations for the 60th anniversary of the War in the Pacific.

"During the course of the Pacific Campaign, 578 New Zealanders died while serving in our armed forces," said Mr Hawkins. "In a very real sense, their deaths helped save their country from invasion and turn the tide of the war in the Pacific.

"Honouring their memory will be a major part of the commemorations."

The delegation arrives in New Caledonia on Friday and will attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Noumea War Memorial that afternoon.

On Saturday, a commemorative service will be held at the New Zealand Cemetery at Bourail, where the main base for the New Zealand Third Division was located during the campaign.

The delegation flies to the Solomons on Sunday for a service at the US Memorial outside Honiara, before returning to New Zealand so that veterans have the opportunity to participate in VJ Day commemorations in Wellington on Monday.

Veterans' Affairs conducted a ballot for places on the trip, with eighty seats available for veterans of the Pacific Campaign who were also fit enough for the rigours of the trip. Fifteen of those originally picked have withdrawn on medical grounds and have been replaced.

The party will travel by RNZAF Boeing 757.

ENDS

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